The January transfer window doesn’t normally produce the blockbuster transfers that the summer transfer window tends to; however, history has shown that impactful deals can still occur.
Especially due to the economic ramifications of the COVID-19 pandemic, fans shouldn’t expect too many big-money signings this year. Even Liverpool, who are facing a defensive crisis, are unlikely to spend.
Most teams are unwilling to sell their players given the short turnaround for them to find replacements in the month-long transfer window. Furthermore, midseason transfers can threaten the chemistry that a team has developed throughout the season. For these reasons, the price for transfer targets is often inflated in January.
Usually, teams break out of their shell and pay the necessary money in one of two scenarios:
- Teams see a player unhappy at their current club and jump at the opportunity to provide them with an escape. Think Christian Eriksen last year.
- Teams need one more piece to secure a major milestone, whether that be avoiding relegation or winning the league. Think Virgil van Dijk to Liverpool in 2018 or Jarrod Bowen to West Ham last year.
The success rate of these transfers is variable. For now, we’ll look at the top 10 best transfers of the past decade in the January transfer window.
10) Tariq Lamptey – Brighton from Chelsea – ₤4 million – 2020
Let’s start with a transfer from just last year. No one knew Lamptey’s name a year ago, but he has quickly emerged as one of the league’s most exciting young prospects.
The 20-year-old left Chelsea’s youth academy in search of more first-team opportunities and quickly claimed the starting right-back spot at Brighton.
Lamptey is lightning quick and is demonstrating more and more defensive awareness by the game. His athleticism has added a whole new dimension to Graham Potter’s side, providing an attacking outlet on the wing.
Acquired for just ₤4 million, the England youth international’s value has likely risen to upwards of ₤20 million in a matter of months.
9) Daniel Sturridge – Liverpool from Chelsea – ₤12 million – 2013
Another example of Chelsea selling low on a bright player, Brendan Rodgers bet on Sturridge’s ability in January of 2013.
Utilized as a striker at Liverpool, Sturridge quickly blossomed. The Manchester City product wasted no time making his mark on Merseyside, scoring in his first 3 games for Liverpool. He would end up scoring 11 goals in 16 appearances for the Reds in the 2012-2013 season.
Sturridge really hit top form the following season, scoring 21 Premier League goals and emerging as England’s #9 for the World Cup. He partnered Luis Suarez (more on him later) to form one of the deadliest strike partnerships England has ever seen.
Unfortunately, injuries derailed the remaining 5 years of his Liverpool career, never allowing him to return to his best. Nonetheless, he is still revered amongst Liverpool fans for his contributions.
8) Gary Cahill – Chelsea from Bolton – ₤7 million – 2012
Not the most glamorous signing, but Cahill quickly proved his value to the Chelsea team. Searching for a partner to John Terry, Cahill showed that he fit the bill.
Although never reaching world-class level, Cahill’s spot in the starting eleven was never in question in his 8 years at Chelsea. Furthermore, the England international sported a reliable injury record throughout his time with Chelsea.
Now with Crystal Palace, the Aston Villa academy graduate was one of the best tacklers in the league and also had the ability to score big goals from set-pieces. At just ₤7 million, Roman Abramovich more than got his money’s worth with this one.
7) Wilfred Ndidi – Leicester City from Genk – ₤17 million – 2017
After remarkably winning the league in 2016, Leicester City fell into the habit of spending recklessly in the following transfer windows, leading to their downfall back to earth.
Ndidi was one of the first shrewd transfers that returned the Foxes to the competing ranks of the Premier League. The Nigerian immediately established his presence in the midfield and has undoubtedly solidified the squad.
Ndidi protects the backline and facilitates the build-up of play from the back. Brendan Rodgers’ side sorely missed Ndidi in the first few months of this season due to injury, as few defensive midfielders perform as consistently as Ndidi.
6) Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang – Arsenal from Borussia Dortmund – ₤56 million – 2018
On the surface, this transfer had the means of turning into a disaster. Aubameyang had essentially quit on the Dortmund team, while Arsene Wenger was searching for a signing to save his job.
Spending ₤56 million on a disgruntled 28-year-old seemed risky, especially after spending a similar amount on Alexandre Lacazette just 6 months earlier. However, Aubameyang quickly dispelled any concerns becoming Arsenal’s key man right from the bat.
Aubameyang scored 10 goals in his first half-season with the Gunners and followed that up with 31 goals in his first full season. 22 of those 31 goals came in the league, the joint-most in the Premier League that season.
Three years on, Aubameyang has signed a new long-term contract and has quickly turned into the face of the club. With Arsenal struggling, the Gabonese international is as important as ever.
5) Wilfried Zaha – Crystal Palace from Manchester United – ₤3 million – 2015
Never receiving an opportunity in the United first-team set up, Zaha was sold to Crystal Palace for a small fee. Ever since, Zaha has become one of the world’s best 1v1 wingers and a Crystal Palace legend.
Although the Ivory Coast international has suffered from lapses of concentration, he has also been the sparkplug on a side with few attacking options for years. Zaha has amassed over 200 appearances for the club, spearheading their steady presence in the top division.
The fact that Zaha still plies his trade for Crystal Palace is astounding, as interest from larger clubs has never been lacking. Whether or not Crystal Palace finally cash in on Zaha, it’s safe to say that that was the best ₤3 million they’ve ever spent.
4) Philippe Coutinho – Liverpool from Inter Milan – ₤8.5 million – 2013
Daniel Sturridge wasn’t the only attacking player that Brendan Rodgers took a chance on in January of 2013. Struggling for playing time at Inter Milan, Liverpool fans hoped Coutinho could bring some Brazilian magic to England.
And that he did. The Brazilian quickly became one of the league’s most exciting midfielders, highlighted by his trademark strikes from outside the box.
Following the departure of Luis Suarez in 2014, the Brazilian emerged as Liverpool’s best player and remained so before departing in 2017.
In the end, Liverpool sold Coutinho for ₤130 million, more than 15 times what they had bought him for.
3) Bruno Fernandes – Manchester United from Sporting CP – ₤67.6 million – 2020
A fresh one in the minds of Premier League fans, Fernandes has taken England by storm. Concerns over the Portuguese midfielder’s ability to adapt to the step-up in physicality in England have quickly eroded.
So far, Fernandes has bagged 27 goals and 17 assists in 47 appearances for Manchester United. The former Sporting player adds an impressive mix of composure, creativity, and finishing to the Red Devils’ attack.
Fernandes could soon be rewarded for his efforts with a Premier League Player of the Season trophy. Nonetheless, he has emerged as one of the world’s best midfielders and can look forward to a bright future—whether in Manchester or elsewhere.
2) Virgil van Dijk – Liverpool from Southampton – ₤75 million – 2018
This was the transfer that changed Liverpool’s fate. Jurgen Klopp had already formed a formidable side, but the signing of Van Dijk changed everything.
Scoring on his debut against Everton, the Dutchman turned Liverpool from defensively frail to defensively dominant. He has been tabbed as the key figure in Liverpool’s ascension to Champions League and Premier League glory, leading him to win UEFA Men’s Player of the Year in 2019.
Commanding in the air, communicative in the back, swift on his feet, and elegant with his passes, Van Dijk may be one of the best defenders that football has ever seen. Liverpool may have paid a premium for Van Dijk, but his performances have more than justified the price tag.
1) Luis Suarez – Liverpool from Ajax – ₤22.8 million – 2011
The only transfer that could top Van Dijk was an equally brilliant player. Suarez, despite his antics, scored goals like few others in Premier League history.
Despite not being the most elegant of footballers, Suarez was as pure of a goalscorer at Liverpool as there ever was. All in all, the Uruguayan netted 69 times in 110 appearances for the Reds.
In Liverpool’s 2013-2014 title quest, Suarez set the league ablaze, scoring 31 goals in a mere 33 appearances. Many would say that this was the best individual season in Premier League history.
In the end, Liverpool sold Suarez for a hefty fee. However, few Liverpool fans will forget the impact that he made.